It’s a quandary that’s plagued athletes for decades: how do I increase my size without sacrificing my speed? No matter what your sport, or your goal, may be, chances are that you’ve grappled with the question of wanting to become both stronger and faster. Contrary to what you may have heard, the two are not mutually exclusive. Though it requires concentrated training over time, it is possible to add muscle mass and not only retain, but also improve, speed.
Whether you are a boxer, a runner, or just reading fitness elliptical reviews in preparation for starting a home gym, you may feel that increasing your bulk will make you a more competitive athlete. However, you are reluctant to sacrifice other important physical abilities like quickness and agility that may help you perform at your best level. In the sports world it’s relatively well accepted that increased bulk can make you lose certain capacities for mobility. Just take a look at competitive bodybuilding, for instance. Bodybuilders increase their muscle mass to enormous proportions, but their training comes with a number of drawbacks. They lose a significant amount of flexibility and moving quickly or making rapid changes of direction are all but impossible.
Bodybuilding may be an extreme example, but even gaining 12-15 pounds of muscle mass may affect your ability to move quickly and with precision, unless you train to maintain your speed even as you increase your size.
Train for Speed
Believe it or not, speed is a learned ability. Some people do appear to be gifted with unusual speed and genetics does play a role, but according to Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist Derek M. Hansen, anyone can be trained to acquire speed. Through his studies, Hansen has learned that most team sports athletes rarely use their ultimate speed on the field of play, usually because of the boundaries imposed by their sport, be it the size of the field, the other players in the game, or the necessity of concurrently controlling a ball. However, if the athlete trains to improve their ultimate speed capability off the field, these improvements will be noticeable on the field as well.
To improve speed, Hansen suggests adopting a leaning posture at around 45 degrees from the ground. This posture allows for quicker acceleration because the athlete must rely more heavily on their powerful hip extension muscles and will also receive an extra boost from gravity. Also, training runs should be performed at 95-100% of your speed capacity. In order to gain speed, you must put forth maximum effort on a regular basis.
Build Your Flexibility
Improving your range of motion is key when you’re bulking up if you want to keep your speed and agility. Make stretching a component of every workout and make the effort to get in a little stretching even on days when you’re not doing other kinds of training.
According to Bodybuilding.com, there are two main categories of stretching: passive and active. Passive stretching involves the use of an outside force, such as a partner lifting your leg for you, to move a muscle beyond its typical range of motion. Passive stretching can cause injury, so it’s better to use active techniques, wherein you rely on muscular effort rather than an outside force. Active stretching helps you achieve a safe, effective stretch. Stretch before, during, and after a weight training session to keep muscles warm and limber.
Develop Your Ability for Maximum Strength
Believe it or not, traditional strength building exercises like squats, lunges and jumping drills will not only build your muscle mass, but will also help increase your speed. Core exercises will also aid the leg movement in speed exercises. Because speed involves all of your muscles working together, the same can be said for exercise classics like push-ups, pull-ups, and dips. Focusing on developing the all-important hip flexors will also increase speed and strength. Give the hip flexors a workout by doing leg raises from a supine position. With every lift, you’re building muscle and improving your capacity for speed. Combine these strength training classics with a solid dumbbell or barbell workout that is composed of tried-and-true exercises like bicep curls, triceps extensions, upright rows, and bent over rows to increase your overall strength abilities and your size.
Eat Right for Growth and Quickness
Good training techniques are only a part of the equation. To get bigger, you must take in more calories, usually between about 250 and 500 calories a day. Substance counts with these extra calories. Eating junk food like desserts and hot dogs will make you bigger, but it’s not going to give you the muscle mass increase you’re looking for. Lean protein is the key to solid muscle development, so include plenty of servings of poultry, lean cuts of red meat, egg whites, and fish. Pair these items with starches like brown rice and other whole grains and raw fruits and vegetables to ensure that you are taking in all necessary nutrients. Focus on water as a hydration source and cut soda out of your diet.
Eating properly provides you with a better supply of energy, building your ability for endurance at the same time you are gaining muscle mass. You’ll look better, feel healthier, and be more competitive when you eat right.
Train for Endurance
Most athletes could probably use a healthy dose of the kind of strength that enables the body to endure the strain you must put your body under for the duration of your game, match, bout, or competition. Whatever sport you’re involved in, your training should be a direct reflection of the skills and abilities you’ll need when you’re competing. Therefore, the training regimen of the MMA fighter will differ significantly from that of the marathon runner. However, they both need to maintain adequate energy throughout their competition in order to succeed. That translates to increasing their ability to endure.
Focus your weight training regimen on strenuous loads lifted in multiple sets of low repetitions. You may also want to set aside certain days where you concentrate on the speed with which you complete your weight training. Lifting the same weight at a faster rate of speed can improve your quickness at the same time it builds muscle. Just be sure to always use proper form and technique to avoid injury.
Remember to make balance a part of your fitness regime. Balance your strenuous workouts with days of rest, eat healthy foods, and keep your water intake up to get the best results while you increase your size and maintain your speed and agility.
About the Author: Ron Blake has been a professional trainer and fitness coach since 2006, with an extensive background in martial arts and preparing candidates for LEO entry exams. He is a professional writer and blogger, with a particular interest in bodybuilding and combative sports.